I felt a sense of relief upon hearing that voice. Still shaken from my encounter this afternoon, I froze as I held the link at my chest.
“Sorry about that,” I managed to spit out. “I’m here.”
“Glad to hear that. These conversations have become a highlight of my day.”
I felt my cheeks flush. “Me too.”
I knew that I couldn’t talk about the ride with Roy. Instead, I welcomed his voice and slowly some of my fear began to dissipate.
“What are you most curious about on Earth?” I blurted out as I leaned towards the microphone, unsure if it was rude to ask. But I needed to talk about something other than this afternoon.
“It’s quite a long list,” the always even toned voice replied.
“I’ve got time,” I leaned back with my palms on the floor leaving the transmitter in my lap. My hair fell down to the floor and my shoulders relaxed.
“Of course all of it is interesting. I have never seen a city and just within that there are a million things that live only in videos and histories for me. I’d be fascinated to take a drone on the skyways or the sub shooting underneath the ground. I can’t imagine walking amongst anything towering larger then the units of our complex. It seems awe inspiring.” There was a pause.
“It can be. We lived in Columbus for quite a while. I am definitely more city girl than country mouse.”
“It would also be amazing just to pass anonymously among so many people. After years of being here, where there is no anonymity, I can’t imagine walking a city street among so many other people. I am the one and only child and it is impossible for me to truly hide. But to be on Earth and pass by on the streets, just watching and taking it all in.”
I hadn’t thought about how much I missed that. “There was a place on Franklin Street that I went. An old railway that had been turned into a city park. The path was made of plexi so you could see below. There was a set of benches on one of the corners and I would perch there just peering down at the street below. I spent hours up there just looking down, watching the people pass by. I miss those days…” I closed my eyes and images of those days flooded my mind, but the edges were duller and less vivid than I remembered as the memories were fading.
“What do you miss most about Earth?”
I kept my eyes closed and the city gave way to the tall peaks of the Sierra Nevadas as they came to mind. “The parks.” I conjured up an image of hiking by an alpine meadow with my family that was slightly out of focus. “We were able to go to some pretty amazing places and see nature.”
“It’s tough to imagine what it feels like to be in a forest…”
“They even began to fill the cities with forests. The Albedo Movement greened buildings and cities. They say it’s what turned the tide on global warming. After Charleston went under of course, the politicians had to do something. I do miss the green spaces, just walking among trees and meadows...”
“Without a helmet full of oxygen…”
I opened my eyes to the reality of the plain metal bathroom walls. The phrase struck a chord and I felt a tinge of guilt knowing how truly lucky I was. “Yeah, it’s beautiful here. But when you get to Earth— I mean if you decide to go. When you get there, if you have a chance to go far away from everyone else and really taste the fresh air. It’s something.”
“It does seem like there have been advances on the battlefront against global warming. And the Pan was years ago now, with the new regulations seeming to have kept people safe from another outbreak. The dangers might be decreasing there. So maybe a colony is unnecessary. Maybe things are moving beyond stabilizing and the Earth is secure.”
“Maybe,” I wondered as I opened my eyes. My mind flashed back to the writing on the skiff in the desert. “You’ve read a fair amount about the Pan right?”
“My parents don’t really talk about that time. Do the colonists there mention it?”
I swallowed and hoped that he would find this thought to be ridiculous. “You saw what Francois wrote on the side of the skiff right?”
“You don’t suppose that there’s something to that… do you?”
“I hope not,” he answered. My heart sunk a little knowing that he did not rule it out.
“Me too,” I responded as I thought about my friends and family left behind. “You…”
I never finished that thought as I heard the door swish open in the other room. Quickly, I reached down and clicked off the transmitter. Sitting on the floor, once again I found myself on the roller coaster of emotions. I was beginning to miss my life from a month before. Things had not been so complicated.
The transmitter sat in my lap and said nothing.
“You’re worth it though,” I whispered and nodded knowing I wasn’t just saying it. It was better to know and have some hand in fate.
Fear, anger, curiosity, hope, and maybe something more coursed through my veins as I stood up. I was anything but a robot.
I’m going to find my way to you Adam. I promise.